Born February 7, 1954 in Columbus,
Ohio, Bruce Edward Sauer had the luxury of growing up at the local dragstrip
with his father who drove a front engine dragster. The track was a new track
called National Trail Raceway built by the Clark Rader family in 1963. This
track along with half a dozen other popular Ohio drag racing facilities made
Columbus, Ohio the nucleus of drag racing in the United States. The dragster was
a 1948 Ford Flathead D Dragster that ran in the 11’s. He raced that car until
the oldest boys, Bruce and his older brother Bill, got out of high school. Once
they did, he sold everything lock, stock and barrel. The photo below is Bruce’s
first car, a 1962 Impala.
Bruce began racing motorcycles at
NTR in 1976 on a brand new Kawasaki KZ900. Although Bruce had go-carts and
mini-bikes as a kid, this was the first streetbike he ever had.
Seeing that the KZ900 was the
quickest bike on the planet at the time it didn’t take long for Bruce to have it
out at Trails racing it. Being a relatively new track in 1976, NTR drew all the
sanctioning bodies to the popular haven of racing. When Dragbike USA came to
town in 1979 Bruce entered the heavily contended ET class with over 130 bikes
and won. Bruce continued to race locally and catch national events as they came
through the state until 1982. That’s when Steve Drake and Lance Boyer asked
Bruce to ride with them to the last race at Orange County Raceway in California.
It was an NMRA National event ran by Jim Harris and Steve Crosby. That race was
one of the most iconic and historical events in motorcycle drag racing history.
It was the weekend that Terry Vance and Russ Collins were in the battle to be
the first 200mph motorcycle. Elmer Trett and the who’s who of Top Fuel were in
attendance. Funnybike was a legend packed group of riders including Vince
Santangelo, Craig Burns, Terry Kizer, and Jon Baugh. It was in the Pro Stock
wonder years with Terry Vance, Bob Carpenter, Paul Gast and new kid on the block
Dave Schultz. Bruce raced in Super Gas and won the event. He said he felt like
he hit the lottery when Terry Vance was the one to pay him his winnings in the
While at that event, Bruce met Henry
Pilcher, co-owner of Web-Cams. The two struck up a conversation and before Bruce
left California he had a new sponsor in Web-Cams. He also picked up Tsubaki as
well. Not a bad weekend for a local boy from Ohio. This led to Bruce eventually
being the Web-Cam sponsor’s rep and display at future national events.
In 1985 Bruce started traveling the IDBA circuit. In his second year he won the
IDBA Super Gas Championship. The following year he captured the Dragbike USA
Super Gas championship. It would be a long dry spell before Bruce would win
another national title. In 1991 Bruce and his brother Bill decided to start
racing with the new series, Prostar. In their first season, Bill won the Super
Modified Champion. A year later Bruce would win Prostar’s Pro Gas championship.
It was the move to the Prostar series where Bruce became a near unbeatable force
along with a group of fellow Trails racers (Mike Coulson, Mark Coulson, Rob
Schenz, Roger Schroeck, Steve Wheatley, “Big” Benny Baldwin, Bill Sauer plus
dozens of other that couldn’t keep up the pace.) Bruce credits much of his
racing knowledge to the years he spent crewing for Norm Devine in NHRA Pro Stock
while at the same time racing Prostar. They had to run against the money teams
when Norm and the boys only had one motor. They finished in the top ten all five
years and never had a computer on the bike. It was that experience that allowed
Bruce to give the tune up to so many Sportsman champions.
Over the next ten years, Bruce would
win a total of six national championships in all four Sportsman index classes of
Super Gas, Pro Gas, Super Comp and Top Gas. Bruce has won at least one national
event in all four decades of racing. During that time he was also the recipient
of the Prostar “Sportsman Mechanic of the Year” award seven times before the
award was renamed the “Bruce Sauer Sportsman Mechanic of the Year” award giving
others a chance to win. Based on team and rider achievement the award was next
to impossible to give to anyone else. in 1999 Bruce also became the first
Sportsman racer to win two classes on two different bikes at the same event. And
it just happened that it was at his home track of National Trails that it took
The downside to the win in Columbus
was that his wife, Debbie and daughter Andrea were in New York at a band
competition. Deb and Andrea stayed at Matt Polito’s house in Nutley, New Jersey
while Matt camped out at the Sauer’s house. Now tell me who really invented
house swapping? After the race, Bruce met the family when the band’s bus arrived
back at the school. They were very happy of Bruce’s accomplishment, but Andrea
said he would just have to do it again so they could see. As fate would have it,
Bruce doubled up again at the very next Prostar race in Rockingham.
Bruce would go on to collect a total
of eight championships, six of those with Prostar. Bruce is a two-time Prostar
Sportsman Rider of the Year honoree with an extended list of other honors. A
couple of years ago while assisting Mike Coulson on his Funnybike a group of
Bruce’s former teammates stood on the line with him. As he looked around they
estimated that the group represented twenty-two national titles. To say
Columbus, Ohio breeds champions would be an understatement.
The low point in Bruce’s racing career was on March 2, 2005. The week prior to
the opening Prostar event in Gainesville, Florida, Bruce agreed to drive down to
West Palm Beach, Florida to look at a dragster (car) for local Columbus racer,
Bill Fordice. While there they decided that Bruce needed to make a pass in the
car since Bruce had been driving similar dragsters back home. Bruce was much
taller than the car’s owner so they had to relocate the foot pedals for Bruce.
On his one and only pass when Bruce went for the brakes at the finish line, the
brakes went over center locking up the brakes. The result was the car barrel
rolling tossing the engine, tranny and rear end over 300 feet past where the car
finally stopped. Bruce thankfully had arm restraints but suffered a broken left
hand, broken right wrist, five broken ribs in his back, a punctured lung and
lacerations. It was exactly a year before Bruce would return to racing. Deb said
if he ever raced anything with a roll bar again she would divorce him. Seeing
that today is Bruce and Deb’s 37th anniversary, I guess Bruce did good to keep
honor his wife’s wishes.
Looking back at the NMRA beginning and the memory packed Prostar years, Bruce
said he is truly blessed to have raced in motorcycle drag racing’s glory years.
He considers his family the racers, officials and sponsors from all the years of
racing. Even rivals like multi-time champion Mike Konopacki are considered
family. If it wasn’t for Mike, Bruce would have possible had half a dozen more
championships but it was guys like Mike that made the sport that much more
special and memorable. In looking back and trying to see what changed, we both
agreed that the Suzuki Hayabusa killed the sport of motorcycle drag racing as we
knew it. And oddly enough he and I both predicted it all those years ago. I
don’t think we are alone in our logic. Bruce remembers something that Elmer
Trett said long ago. Elmer said, “In the 70’s no one had wheelie bars, in the
90’s if you didn’t have wheelie bars you were on a pit bike.”
The above photo is a classic from
the Prostar days with a typical late, late night Gainesville celebration of
champions in 2001. Pictured are Tommy Miceli, Ryan Schnitz, Mark Coulson, Kent
Stotz, Mark Moisan, Matt Smith, Todd Doege, Larry McBride, Bruce Sauer, Rob
Giard, Mike Konopacki and Jon Cornell. I could write a history book on this
lineup of champions.
I’m sure the no-bar generation of today would argue with us and think they are
living in the glory years. For all of us old-timers, we will continue to grow
gray and happy with our memories of our days in the limelight. But Bruce is not
exactly letting go and looking for a rocker. He is the current track champion at
National Trails and leading the points this year. Here’s to ya’ Bruce and Happy
Anniversary to you and your lovely bride.
Above is Bruce’s current version of the ZX11 that he won last
season’s NTR track championship.
The above photo is on his faithful
KZ900 where it all began. Along with his ZX11, Bruce still races “Old Red” even
though it’s green. Bruce won 46 national events on his faithful companion. Below
are a few more versions of his famous ZX11 and ZX9.
Other Areas of Interest
Current Residence (town): Reynoldsburg, Ohio
Spouse’s Name: Deb
Children’s Names: Andrea
Occupation (at time of competition years): Owner of C & B Performance and
Power By Sauer.
Home track (at time of competition years): National Trail Raceway
Crew Members (at time of competition years): Deb Sauer, Andrea Sauer,
Rick Bodnar, Allen Pavol
Sponsors (at time of competition years): Star Racing, Web-Cam, Porter
Construction, Custom FRP, Team Green Kawasaki.
History of racing bikes and classes: 1976 KZ900 (bought new), D&G
Chassied ZX9, Trac Dynamics ZX11 (ZX11 powered)
1986 IDBA Super Gas
1987 Dragbike USA Super Gas
1992 Prostar Pro Gas
1995 Prostar Super Comp
1998 Prostar Super Gas
1999 Prostar Super Comp
2000 Prostar Top Gas
2001 Prostar Super Comp
National Event Wins (all classes combined): 53
1988 IDBA Sportsman Mechanic
1992, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003 Prostar Mechanic of the Year. In
2003 award renamed the Bruce Sauer Sportsman Mechanic of the Year award to allow
others to win the award.
1998 and 2001 Prostar Sportsman Rider of the Year
1999 Prostar Sponsor’s Racer of the Year (only Sportsman to ever win award)
2003 Norwalk $10,000 winner
2004 Race of Champions Winner – NHRA Division 3
2004 and 2011 National Trails Track Champion
Who was some of the best-known racers of nominee’s time? Elmer Trett,
Terry Vance, Larry McBride, Jim McClure, Superbike Mike, John Myers.
What did nominee drive to the races in the early years? Started with
Chevy Suburban and later had two different motor homes.
What sanctioning bodies did nominee race with? I have won races in four
decades with Dragbike USA, IDBA, Prostar and NMRA West.
Who are some of the officials that you remember? Wayne Buckler, Captain
Hook, Carl Stieffenhofer, Jim Beaty, Danny Voak and Tony Williams.
Interest outside of racing: Shooting pool and riding my ’78 Z1R
First motorcycle: 1976 KZ 900. Still have it.